The second-ever woman to be general partner at Foundation Capital discusses the challenges of startup investing, the promise of AI, and speaking out against racism.This Is Working for Me: Foundation Capital's Joanne Chen, ’14
Cindy McGee Manieri, ’17 (EXP-22), was nearly a decade into a successful career in investor relations, corporate affairs, and alliance management when she decided it was finally the right time to pursue an executive MBA.
She had considered continuing her education before, but she felt her career had given her invaluable real-world experience that she did not want to interrupt for a full-time academic program. It wasn’t until her role for the American biotechnology company Arena Pharmaceuticals took her to Switzerland in 2014 that she began to consider a change.
John Manieri, ’09 (EXP-14), a new friend she met in Zurich who would later become her husband, had completed his MBA at Chicago Booth. He suggested she consider the school’s Executive MBA Program, an appealing choice as it was part time and split across three global campuses.
“I was really thinking about the next phase of my career and where I wanted to go,” she says. “I liked the idea of combining my real-life, hands-on experience with the critical-thinking framework that Booth provides.”
Also important for McGee Manieri was leveling up her skill set by gaining insights from case studies and a deep understanding of finance and behavioral economics.
“To do investor relations and communications well at these types of companies, you need to understand the dynamics of the business,” she says. “And certainly in biotech IR roles, you need to be able to communicate those dynamics to educated, intelligent folks who have MDs, MBAs, and PhDs.”
“To do investor relations and communications well at these types of companies, you need to understand the dynamics of the business. And certainly in biotech IR roles, you need to be able to communicate those dynamics to educated, intelligent folks who have MDs, MBAs, and PhDs.”
One standout course at Booth was one of Manieri’s electives, Designing a Good Life with Nicholas Epley, the John Templeton Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and a Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow, who is also the director of the Roman Family Center for Decision Research. In his class, Manieri and her classmates discussed the relationship between ethics, happiness, and success.
“It was about how to approach and build your career and life in a way that you can really be proud of,” she says. “I thought this was a unique class for the program—softer but meaningful.”
Booth has continued paying dividends in the years since Manieri graduated. She found her role at Biogen’s international headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, through fellow Booth graduate Deborah Glasser, ’05, who spent 13 years at the biotechnology company. As the head of international rare disease communications and patient advocacy, Manieri continues to meet and connect with other alumni in the industry, and works closely with Stephanie Tanous, ’19 (EXP-24), head of rare disease, international.
“When there’s a big acquisition in biotech, I always look at the management teams, and many times there’s at least one person, often the CFO, who’s a Booth grad,” she says. “These are major M&A deals that are headline news, certainly for our industry, and it makes all of us alums really proud.”
In Europe, Manieri says many Booth alumni regularly keep in touch, whether it’s working together, meeting up for dinner while traveling on business, or organizing weekend get-togethers. In September, Manieri had plans to visit Portofino, Italy, with some of her former Booth classmates.
“To be able to call someone who’s an expert in a particular topic and say, ‘Hi, can I pick your brain about this?’ or ‘Hi, I’m going to visit this city. Can we get together?’” she says.
“That’s what I got from the program, in addition to Booth’s best-in-class education—this amazing global network, the opportunity to meet colleagues, now friends, who live all around the world.”